19 Jan

Geographical Review Preview: Conserved? A Political Ecology of Landscape Conservation on the North Fork American River

By: Sean J. Pries

What is the main purpose of your study? 
This study examines how various organizations engaged in conservation work define the term conservation and what effects those variant definitions have on quantifying how many acres are protected within the North Fork American River watershed. It also argues for an approach to thinking about the world that
embraces greater inclusivity for the fate of the more than human world.

What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study? 
Decision-making on future conservation actions is based, in part, on how much acreage is already protected in a given area. Public support for proposed conservation projects depends, partially, upon perception of whether or not a place is adequately protected. The results of this study show that organizations and citizens need to look critically at how conservation is defined, by whom, and
how these affect actual acreage of protected area.

How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
This study is unique in that it questions the power of defining the term conservation and quantifies those definitions through mapping and GIS analysis of actual acreages of protected area resulting from each definition.

What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study? 
Depending upon whose definition of conservation is used within the North Fork American River watershed, the amount of protected area varies by as much as 75%. By looking at the spatial data produced via various organizations’ definition of conservation we can both quantitatively and visually examine the implications of accepting one definition versus another. The power to decide which definition of conservation prevails has direct implications upon the physical being of a Wild &Scenic River watershed.

What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study? 
Each of the maps created in this study possesses affective capacity. The maps
are actors that can shape our perception of the North Fork. Conservation decision-making is often shaped by human desires for places to recreate and human aesthetic preferences. If we decenter human concerns and elevate the more than human world to equal consideration, this shift demands a more egalitarian definition of conservation. Such a shift may lead to abundance for all entities engaged with the North Fork, be they more than human or otherwise.

How does your research help us think about Geography? 
Geography might be (albeit incompletely) defined as the study of the reciprocal
shaping of the earth by humans and humans by the earth. Geographers of all
stripes might consider earth writings embracing ways to positively affect that
relationship. If, as this study suggests, we humans think of ourselves as simply a
part, rather than lords over the worlds through which we live, the fate of all our
earthly kin may make a positive shift.

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Click here to read the abstract of this article.